The Gourmet Touch: Sweeten up Thanksgiving with condensed milk
by Prudence Hilburn
Special to The Star
Nov 14, 2012 | 2363 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thank you, Gail Borden, for sweetened condensed milk, which is one of my favorite dessert ingredients.

Can you believe that this interesting product was developed and patented by Borden in 1856? When he was returning by ship from London in 1851, he saw many babies dying because they had no fresh, pure milk. This sight continued to haunt him, so he began working on a way to preserve milk and keep its good taste and quality.

He got the idea of using the vacuum method from watching Shakers preserve fruits in this manner. After removing the water, he then decided to add sugar to act as a preservative.

His first selling adventure with this new product was on the streets of New York. He sold the milk from 40-quart cans on pushcarts for 25 cents a quart. In order for the milk to be stored indefinitely, he started sealing the milk in smaller cans.

He felt that many people would benefit from this new kind of milk because it was the only source of pure wholesome milk in the days before refrigeration. During World War I consumers started using sweetened condensed milk in desserts because there was a shortage of sugar.

There seems to be some confusion about the difference between sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Both are condensed, but it is important to know that they can not be used interchangeably in recipes. Evaporated milk is not sweetened and is not as thick as the sweetened condensed milk.

There are several important things you should know about this unique product. It does not have to be heated in order for it to thicken. An acid ingredient such as lemon juice, pineapple juice or concentrated orange juice will aid in thickening.

When sweetened condensed milk is heated with chocolate, it will not crystallize as sugar sometimes does. The cooking time is also shortened when using this type milk and neither the soft-ball test nor a thermometer is needed.

The much-loved caramel pie can be made by caramelizing the sweetened condensed milk. Contrary to what you might have heard, The Borden Company advises against placing the unopened can of milk in the oven to caramelize it. The proper way to do this is to pour the contents into a pie plate, place the plate in a shallow pan of water, cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven (425 degrees) for one hour or until thick and slightly caramel-colored. Remove the foil, cool and then chill before serving or using it in a recipe.

For a quick and easy dessert for Thanksgiving, you might want to serve the following Cherry Cheese Pie from the Borden Company Kitchens. This is a very old recipe which has remained one of the most popular desserts made with sweetened condensed milk.

Cherry Cheese Pie

1 (9 inch) baked pastry shell or graham cracker crumb crust
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice from concentrate (or fresh lemon juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling, chilled

In a large mixer bowl, beat cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Pour into prepared pastry shell.

Chill 3 hours or until set. Top with desired amount of pie filling before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.
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The Gourmet Touch: Sweeten up Thanksgiving with condensed milk by Prudence Hilburn
Special to The Star

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